Sunday, 27 October 2013

Mascot Fight - Abscond and Hey Presto! (Cassette County)

I'm not entirely sure when I first came across Mascot Fight. My mind seems to skirt across much of the 2000s like a knackered needle on a record, but whereas I can remember distinctly where I was when I first time I heard Derby contemporaries Lardpony, how Mascot Fight came into my life remains a mystery.

Answers on a postcard, please.

I think this is Mascot Fight's second album, but how they're still going remains a mystery. Their first, 'Pantomime Hearse' is a cruelly-ignored classic, and, by now, a mixture of sparsely attended gigs, band members living hundreds of miles apart, and general apathy from a record-buying public who should know better, would have forced a lesser band to hang up their boots. Mascot Fight are better than that, mind...

With all this trouble and strife in mind, then you'd be forgiven for thinking that 'Abscond and Hey Presto!' would be a downbeat, maudlin affair. Oh, well, you'd be right. Take 'Vanuatu', for example, sung by Tom John in his faltering choirboy voice, which might sounds all sweetness and light but has lyrics with real claws and reminds this listener of some of Beulah's more triumphant, yet bittersweet, moments.

Or, what about the follow-up, the nearly-funky, psychedelic 'Played A Hand' (a past single), which might or might not be about wanking, but has the kind of lyrics that paint of picture of admiration from afar which always appeal to me.

Centrepiece of the action is 'Interior Speeches', which is classic Mascot Fight and the sort of jittery paranoid pop that they do pretty much better than anyone else. It's all peaks and then more peaks. And then another peak. They manage to follow this up with the ode to smalltown mentality, 'In the Mouth of the A Dessert', about how certain people seem to thrive on failure, which is saying more to me about my life than 99 per cent of music around at the moment.

'Bucky Balls', sung by Sean in his north-east brogue, tells the dark tale of a wife murdering her husband. It's dark stuff, some of this, but then along comes 'Retconning' and steals the show entirely, again sung by Tom in a deeply world-weary way, as he kills his idols in three and half minutes of the sweetest pop music you'll hear.

I don't want to get all regionalist on your arsehole, but I can't help but think that if Mascot Fight were from London or somewhere glamorous and vogue-ish like Stockholm, then more people would have heard of them by now. But, Derby it is, and Derby it will stay. Let's just hope that the majesty of this album manages to break out of the East Midlands gulag into the wider world.

You can hear the entire album here. But once you've done that, you should really buy it, shouldn't you?

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Fireworks - Runaround (Shelflife)

The outside world is a grey, wet place - but that doesn't matter because I'm sat inside next to the radiator listening to the new Fireworks single.

'Runaround' has very little to do with the quite-weird-if-you-think-about-it-now kids' telly show of the same name, and more to do with being kicked up the arse by three minutes of perfect pop music.

Vital doesn't quite come close. There was someone who commented on here on my post about the first Fireworks single, saying it was derivative. Of course it's derivative - just about all music is. But when music makes the blood zoom around your body that little bit faster, and when your skin goes all tingly, and when you feel - yes - a bit emotional about three minutes of fuzzcore energy, then, really, who gives a fuck?

'Runaround' is all pep and heartache and foot-to-the-floor pop. It sounds like the Shangri-Las after eight pints of Harvest Pale. It makes me want to go and do something that might lose me my job. It's probably the best single I've heard this year.

But what do I know? I'm going back to hug this radiator, and then I best get dressed. You make your own mind up...

Monday, 14 October 2013

September Girls - Heartbeats (Fortuna Pop!)

Oh, you might think that September Girls would lose some of their inherent menace now that they've signed up to one of those proper pop labels. Once again, you're wrong... so very, very wrong.

This single, their debut for pop hit mince machine Fortuna Pop! sees the fivesome veer towards early Lush on the A-side, whilst always keeping a sense of the tribal, with Siouxsie-ish drums and bass. It's the perfect soundtrack to one of those nights in on your own when you're pissed off and have nothing but a cheap box of wine to get you through to the morning. Least that's what I did with it at the weekend, anyway...

Over on the b-side. 'Wasted' turns the reverb up to 11 and wallows in its own dark, dark glory. Mysterious enough to make you strain to try and heard the well-down-in-the-mix vocals, it gives you the impression that it'll explode into some kind of glorious, joyous noise any second. Of course it doesn't, and it's probably all the better for that.

The album can't come soon enough, to be honest. Along with another Nottingham show.

September Girls are playing some dates in England this week. Don't be a div - go and see them somewhere:

15th Oct - Leaf, Liverpool (with PINS)
16th Oct - Bulls Head, Birmingham (with PINS)
17th Oct - Belgrave, Leeds (with PINS)
18th Oct - The Waiting Room, London
19th Oct - Kraak Gallery, Manchester - part of 'A Carefully Planned Festival' - stage time 3pm

Friday, 4 October 2013

Interview: Kitchens of Distinction

Forgive the mild breakdown, but as I steam headlong towards my forties, I'm caught between terrible pangs of nostalgia and the sense that I want to recreate some kind of mythical time and place that existed (Grimsby, 1990-92 - I have very low standards), and looking at what I have now and what I didn't have then and being really fucking thankful that it's now, not then.

A lot of my best friends have moved on from being into music and have accepted family life and all the pleasures that go with that - and, often, I quite admire them. I often get very frustrated with myself for not letting go of pop music - even for a few months - and seeing what life is really like outside of a sparsely populated gig, or fretting about how many people are going to turn up at your next show, or trying to grab an hour from somewhere to actually, y'know, listen to music properly again. Like you did Back Then...

There aren't many bands I return to again and again from Back Then, but Kitchens of Distinction are one of them. This band's first album, 'Love is Hell', is one that I'll always cherish because it said something to me about my life at the time I bought it (a few months after it came out). Its tales of frustration and fighting against your own personal limitations struck a chord with someone who was mired in shyness, and, who, if I'm honest, took himself a little too seriously...

And now I'm talking about myself in the third person. Nothing changes, it seems.

The band's second and third albums 'Strange Free World' and 'Death of Cool' were equally as engrossing, but they never quite caught the time and place of 'Love is Hell'. Still, you can't be too greedy, can you?

Onwards, and the recent rash of reformations from bands has often left me cold; for every thrilling rebirth (The Flatmates), there's been others that appear to be doing the cabaret circuit (oh, I'm far too polite). When news came earlier this year that my beloved Kitchens of Distinction were reforming, I wasn't exactly in raptures. However, from what I've heard of their new album 'Folly' and the reviews that have appeared, I can relax.

This is a long-winded and deeply self-indulgent way of telling you that I sent Patrick from the band some questions, which he was kind enough to answer. Thanks, Patrick.


How did you resurrect KoD? Who made the first move? And why?

It wasn't intentional. I met up with Julian to write some music, with no particular agenda in mind. Let's see where the music takes us. That music began to transform itself into songs, and as they developed it became clear that it resembled our old selves in some ways. At that point I asked Dan if he'd like to add some percussion/drums - and he did.

When you set out to make the album, did you intentionally try and not replicate what KoD had done before? Or not?

The original idea was to do something largely orchestral with layers of harmony vocals. Imagine Fleet Foxes singing over a Bruckner symphony. As we went along it became clear that this wasn't going to be the case. One song looks back at Kitchens of yore. It was written in an intentionally similar way (I Wish It Would Snow); I wrote a bass chordal riff for Julian to play abstract delayed sounds over. But then that too morphed into something newer. Which we were glad about. I think it shows that we aren't content to repeat old tricks.

What are the big themes on the album, if any?

Love and death. Just like the Woody Allen film. I wanted to write about issues relevant to the ageing man in me - about love after many years of being together; of impending health deterioration; and then of course of final days. Nothing too heavy then. I wish I could write more about the lighter side of life - but I do hope there is at least some comedy within the maudlin mush.

How has putting a record out changed since that last KoD album? Is it easier?

It should be easier but it isn't! In a way I wish it was either digital or CD or Vinyl. The mix of all three makes it more complicated. I'd be happy with just CD - I like the portability and high fidelity of the medium, though having listened to the vinyl test pressing I can see why people like that sound more, where the mid range is pushed a bit harder. mp3s really are a dog's dinner - don't understand them at all.

You've said you won't be playing live - why is this?

Two reasons. Primarily because Julian wont play live. As to why, I think he feels that there is neither the time/space or the reliance of equipment to make the experience an enjoyable one. He also would be too nervous to get on stage I think. I'd be happy to play in the UK, but my work/health situation means travel abroad is out.

The record has received some excellent reviews. Did you expect this?

I've made records throughout the time as Stephenhero, and received all sorts of reviews. You get used to the variety of opinions. To see the praise for this record so far is totally unexpected. It's a lovely thing, but I'm also wary not to let it please me too much. I think it's a good record - but I can tell you what parts I think haven't worked so well and what parts are wonderful. But I do that about all records, so why not ones I'm involved in too?

Will there be another KoD album? Or is it too early to say?

Too early to say. This one has been a major project over two years. Could I do that again? Not sure right now.

What's the thing you missed the most - and least - from being in KoD?

The thing I miss most is playing live, being in a band full-time, and having the energy to jump about on stage having a great time. The thing I miss least is being drunk, being harassed, being broke, and being in a band with, at that time, two mardy fuckers.